Sanni Provides Depth At Safety For Illini

With the graduation loss of three senior safeties, the Fighting Illini football team has been scrambling to find and develop repacements. Opponents have picked on Illini inexperience, but each mistake has served as a teacher to strengthen the secondary. Freshman Supo Sanni has made great strides this fall and is beginning to provide depth at safety.

Supo Sanni has played on special teams since the first game. He found the experience less nerve-wracking than expected.

"For some reason, everybody's been telling me I'd be nervous, but I really wasn't nervous. In the first game, it was getting that first hit, and then just getting immune and everything comes back to normal."

Sanni is a quick learner.

"It's going real good. I'm just trying to work the kinks out. I'm trying to make the transition from high school to college and just doing everything I can to get on the field and be as productive as possible."

Little by little, the 6'-3", 205 pounder from Homewood-Flossmore High School has gained the trust of his coaches.

"I got in at safety in the Indiana game. I'm just basically coming out here to get better every week. Hopefully, one of these days I can be a starter. I've still got a lot to learn. That's why we all play the game."

Supo was recruited both as a safety and receiver out of high school. But Illini coaches liked the way he roamed sideline to sideline on defense.

"I had some experience at free safety. I played three years in high school. I played receiver too, but I came down here as a free safety. It's definitey more complex. That's one of the biggest transitions.

"Coming from high school, you're playing just base cover 3. In college, you have so many things you can do. Being able to play man coverage is a big step.

"I think I bring alot to the table with my size, my speed and my ability to run and make plays. But I need to work on a lot. Just basically knowing plays, getting a better backpedal, a lot of stuff."

Sanni has watched all the deception used by opponents to create openings in the secondary, and he realizes it has been difficult for his fellow safeties. But he believes they have adapted well.

"It's been really tough. Give credit to our safeties. They're doing real good now, getting adjusted to it. There were no starting safeties returning, so basically we're just gonna come out there and play hard to try to get a win.

"All teams are gonna try to go deep on you, try to hit intermediate routes. We've just got to come up and make plays. It's the biggest thing we've got to do, and we've been doing that better lately. The coaches get us prepared. It's basically on us.

"I think we're in the right coverage most of the time. We need to make the play instead of them making the play. It's kind of hard watching it from the fan base. We may be running a different coverage that they don't know. It may seem like it's on the safety but it's really not. It's just the game of football."

Supo and linebacker Russell Ellington have known each other a long time, so they have helped each other make the transition to college.

"Me and Russell grew up together since 6th grade."

A likely communications major, Sanni feels the athletic philosophy at their high school has aided their development.

"Basically, what they do at Homewood-Flossmore is if you're an athlete you play two sports. That's really helping the football athletes especially because they have an edge with their feet or something better about their speed.

"We've been developing talent these last couple years. We've been producing some Division I athletes. I's just been a blessing, and being able to play at this level."

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